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Collecting And Caring For Antique Silver

Updated on December 1, 2013

While just about everyone that enjoys collecting various items as a hobby believes their acquisitions to be unique, there are truly aspects of collecting and caring for antique silver that makes the endeavor stimulating and quickly endearing. In essence silver collecting is a festival for your personal senses, incorporating the sight and feel of rich artistry created by masters that tell stories of faded historical times and locations that can be held and felt in the present day. For those with a keen eye and inquisitive mind collecting silver is more than just the appreciation of art, it represents a specific story unique to every individual piece.

Far too often neophytes to this realm approach collecting from a haphazard posture, not really knowing or understanding what it is exactly they are viewing. Collecting and caring for antique silver is an academic pursuit, make no mistake about it - and to get the most from the hobby a fundamental education on the history, manufacturing processes and design styles are imperative. For these reasons and because of the volume of information that exists it is a prudent move to focus on collecting items specific to an era in history, a particular maker or a style that one finds appealing to their personal tastes. In short, it is much more practical to become an expert in collecting silver from 18th century Massachusetts than to collect 16th century European silver artifacts. Common sense should rule the day - a greater availability of potential purchases, less overall information to digest and lower purchase price results in a more enjoyable hobby.

When collecting and caring for antique silver it is extremely important to interact with reputable sellers whenever possible and on a continued basis. Fakes, altered pieces, forged maker's marks and more are found in good numbers, so it becomes a wise move to view every piece as inferior until proven otherwise. Discover the local antique dealers with solid reputations for selling antique silver and "pick their brains" as often as possible - most are more than willing to share their lifetime of knowledge freely and it is quite possible to gain a valuable collecting mentor.

Once purchases have been made it is critical to protect your investment by embracing the proper cleaning methods and more importantly, the wrong cleaning methods. Harsh cleaning agents, abrasive cloth and poorly conceived polishes can all places scratches into fine silver as permanently damage a patina that may have taken over 100 years to become evident. Antique silver should be cleaned with mild dish detergent whenever possible, rinsed thoroughly in warm water and dried using a soft, clean cotton cloth. Once clean antique silver should only be held with soft cotton gloves to avoid body oils from transferring to the item and silver should be stored in an enclosed glass case or curio cabinet with a few moisture absorbing packets present. . The reasoning for this is that pollutants in the air and humidity cause silver to tarnish resulting in more frequent cleanings and a greater risk of damage during the process.


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